June 19, 2015/in Food Love, Millie Says Advice /by Dr. Millie
Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) is the most common form of dementia, a general term for memory loss and the loss of other intellectual abilities serious enough to interfere with daily life. AD accounts for 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases (1). Not only do Alzheimer’s patients lose their memory, they experience tremendous anxiety, suffer physical brain changes such as Tau protein build up, calcifications, neurofibrillary tangles and plaques. High circulating blood sugar damages the soft tissues of the brain, disrupting memory and brain connectivity. Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive illness, which means the symptoms start off as minor and progressively worsen over time with the onset of inflammation and structural damage.
June is dedicated to raising awareness for Alzheimer’s disease. Here are some lesser-known nutrition tips to support a healthy brain and long-lasting memory at any age:
1.Maintain healthy blood sugar levels. A high number of studies highlight the existence of several common molecular links between Type 2 Diabetes and AD, making it less than surprising that AD is referred to as the “type 3 diabetes” or a “brain-specific Type 2 Diabetes”. These studies show that lowering blood sugar levels with diet, nutrients, medications and herbs against Type 2 Diabetes is also beneficial for reducing risk factors against AD (2).
2.Protect brain mass. Studies show that maintaining an adequate level of Vitamin B12 plays a number of roles to ensure long-lasting memory, preventing brain shrinkage associated with Alzheimer’s. Once the brain has shrunk and dementia starts, it’s too late to reverse it with B12 supplementation – so be sure to start early (3). In addition to DHA from fish, algae and B-vitamins, a host of other vitamins have also been shown to help neurons cope with an aging brain. Vitamins E, C, and D also help the neurons to cope with aging. One study reports that “these nutrients are inexpensive in use, have virtually no side effects when used at recommended doses, are essential for life, have established modes of action, and are broadly accepted by the general public” (4).
3.Lower Homocysteine Levels. Homocysteine is a toxic protein that can build up in the blood and is known to be related to heart disease. Now, recent evidence also shows that poor methylation, which results in high homocysteine, is also a risk factor for Alzheimer’s. Most people can lower homocysteine levels not only by increasing Vitamin B12, but also B6 and Folic acid. Vegetables that contain sulphur such as garlic, broccoli and cabbage also help to reduce homocysteine levels. One study suggested that future research should focus on early detection of AD and on the possibility that the disease itself, or its primary symptom, could be prevented by folate supplementation (5).
4.Reduce Oxidative Stress. The dietary changes due to globalization could explain the increased incidence of this disease in the US, UK and Canada, while Japan and the Mediterranean countries have a lower rate of presentation. There is a direct correlation between the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and the high consumption of pro-inflammatory alcohol, fats, red meats, involving obesity and increased serum cholesterol by high intake of trans-fats. Smoking is also a risk factor. One Spanish study discusses how a diet rich in antioxidants from high fruits and vegetable consumption, green tea and raw nuts and seeds can prevent progression to dementia and AD. Turmeric is a spice that is being patented as Biocurcumin, an antioxidant known the be helpful in preventing AD (6).
5.Nourish the Lipid Bilayer. Cholesterol is a key component for maintaining a healthy lipid bilayer. While Statins are routinely prescribed to manage heart disease, the downside is that low levels of cholesterol causes injury to the lipid bilayer of the plasma membrane, allowing for Calcification and permeability of the cell membrane (7). Moreover, statins increase risk for diabetes up to 60%, thereby contributing to the risk of AD from several mechanisms. Maintain adequate cholesterol levels – not too high, not too low – to support your memory. While balancing HDL and LDL cholesterol is important, avoiding dietary cholesterol completely is a mistake.
Specific foods and nutrients help increase the phospholipid cellular membrane, reduce oxidative stress, increase white and gray brain matter, allow your brain to maintain a soft and buoyant texture, increase communication between neurons and promote a healthy memory. Some beneficial foods that support brain health and memory include salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, herring, Fish oil, Krill Oil, Soy Lecithin, Coconut oil, Avocado, Egg yolk, Choline and Walnuts, chlorella, wheat germ, Vitamin E, turmeric, cinnamon and Vitamin D. In honor of Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, incorporate some of these into your diet, whether your memory is razor sharp or starting to fade!
2.Front Endocrinol (Lausanne). 2014 Jul 8;5:110. Insulin as a Bridge between Type 2 Diabetes and Alzheimer Disease – How Anti-Diabetics Could be a Solution for Dementia.
3.Neurology. 2011 Sep 27; 77(13): 1276–1282. Vitamin B12, cognition, and brain MRI measures
4.Nutrition. 2015 Feb;31(2):261-75. Inadequate supply of vitamins and DHA in the elderly: implications for brain aging and Alzheimer-type dementia.
5.Lancet Neurol. 2003 Jul;2(7):425-8. Homocysteine and Alzheimer’s disease.
6.Gac Med Mex. 2015 Mar-Apr;151(2):245-51.Nutritional approaches to modulate oxidative stress that induce Alzheimer’s disease. Nutritional approaches to prevent Alzheimer’s disease
7.J Alzheimers Dis. 2014;41(1):289-300. Plasma membrane injury depends on bilayer lipid composition in Alzheimer’s disease.
*Image from makeyourbrainfast.com
Millennia Ruth Lytle, ND, host of “The Dr. Millie Hour InVite” on BlogTalkRadio, is a naturopathic physician, certified nutrition therapist, labor doula, hypnotherapist and cognitive behavior therapist. The author of Eating for Meaning and the Food for Mood Diet, she practices in New York and Brooklyn. www.milliesays.com –